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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dispute Stalls EU's Food Aid




Russia and the European Union have still not settled a dispute over the pricing mechanism for food aid to Russia, but they could reach agreement next week, a senior Moscow-based EU official said Friday.


"We had a good meeting yesterday with [Vladimir] Shcherbak, we've passed all this information to Brussels and now we're waiting for their analysis," Gilbert Dubois, charge d'affaires at the European Commission delegation in Moscow, said.


Shcherbak is the deputy agriculture minister in charge of following the food aid programs from both the European Union and the United States, and Dubois said the meeting late Thursday was the eighth in a regular series.


European Union officials said in Brussels on Thursday that the delays caused by prolonged wrangling over pricing were putting the whole program in jeopardy, because deliveries must be completed in this EU budget year.


"They [the Russian side] had read these dispatches, they know we still have a few points to clarify, they know it very well and they're doing their best to clarify them," Dubois said.


"On my side I'm very optimistic," he added, saying that the final agreement might be signed during the course of next week.


But officials in Moscow have frequently held out hopes for a speedy resolution of the dispute, with no success to date.


Dubois said a number of specific points were cleared up with Shcherbak at their meeting, although he did not elaborate, adding that it was now up to Brussels to decide on the next move.


The European union has offered Russia $500 million in food aid to counter the effects of a poor grain harvest last year and an August currency devaluation that limited Russia's ability to pay for imported food.


The United States was quicker off the mark, offering a package worth nearly $1 billion, which is now being distributed.